Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be in his third year in the NFL come the start of the 2014 season. By now, a quarterback should have flashed the potential greatness he possesses, if he does. Tannehill has all the physical tools to be a great quarterback. Tannehill can throw a ball on a rope 40 yards down field, he runs a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash and he is a big man standing at 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds.
But he finished as the 24th rated quarterback in 2013.
Tannehill was seemingly taking huge strides in his second year in the league. In 2013, the offense was mainly predicated around Tannehill’s right arm as the running game was nearly non-existent behind an offensive line that was patched together with glue.
Tannehill led the team to a 3-0 start in his sophomore season which included impressive victories against the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons. Tannehill outdueled the quarterback many fans wanted in 2008 (Matt Ryan) and one that he will forever be compared to for being drafted in the same year (Andrew Luck).
Inconsistency then struck and the Dolphins lost four straight before getting their heads back above water at 7-6. The Dolphins then won a fourth quarter game against the New England Patriots on the arm of Tannehill and the clutch hands of back-up safety Michael Thomas. The team seemed to be turning the corner.
The Dolphins then proved to the world just how disappointing they could be.
The Dolphins went north to play the Buffalo Bills and completely laid an egg. The Dolphins put up zero points, only 103 yards of total offense and got absolutely manhandled in every phase of the word. The Dolphins’ offensive line looked like boys amongst men. Tannehill got hit all day and eventually left the game with a knee injury. The conditions were horrible but the performance was inexcusable and quite honestly embarrassing.
The team followed up that embarrassment with a loss, at home, to their hated rivals the New York Jets to end any hopes of making the AFC playoffs. The Dolphins offense only mustered seven points in that game and Tannehill threw three interceptions. The team seemed flat and unmotivated, a direct reflection of head coach Joe Philbin. A head coach must be a motivator and a leader of men, Philbin didn’t show either of those qualities when it mattered most.
Tannehill’s quarterback ratings in the final two games of the season were 45.6 and 42.1.
It was a two-game stretch that cost people their jobs. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and GM Jeff Ireland were both shown the door soon after the season-ending loss to the Jets.
The Dolphins new GM Dennis Hickey must face the challenges ahead and fix the Dolphins’ offensive line for Tannehill to have any shot at improving. Taking hits like Tannehill did last year can shake any quarterback and leave them keeping an eye on the pass rushers instead of downfield for the big play for the rest of their career.
With the firing of Sherman, Tannehill will now be playing in a new offense for the first time since 2007. The Dolphins hired Bill Lazor, formerly the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach, to replace Sherman.
It is unclear what type of offense Lazor will implement, but with the fact that Lazor worked under Chip Kelly and experienced his innovative offense first hand, it is likely he will provide the flare that the Dolphins offense lacked just last year. He would be wise to implement some of the Eagles’ run schemes as the Eagles were first in the league in rushing last season. This would help take some of the pressure off of Tannehill.
Lazor, who turned Nick Foles into the top rated passer in the NFL last season, is expected to work closely with Tannehill to not only teach him the system, but also the finer points of being a quarterback. Lazor will also obviously help Tannehill with the things he needs to improve on from last season, like pocket presence and his deep ball.
Tannehill showed flashes in his second year, but due to his sinking performance in the final two games, he finished the season as the 24th rated quarterback in the NFL.
Under Lazor’s guidance and behind a Hickey rebuilt offensive line, Tannehill will be able to complete the step that he almost took to becoming a great quarterback in 2013.